Submission: Support the AFSCME 3299 Strike

The dining halls are running a lot slower than usual. Your dorm bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in a few days. No toilet paper? You’re probably frustrated, but hopefully after you read this you’ll know where to direct that anger. Here goes:

The UC’s largest labor union, AFSCME 3299, is going on strike this week (May 7-9) at ten separate UC campuses. As you can imagine, the folks in these positions are among the lowest-paid workers on our campus. Predominantly Black and brown workers, AFSCME 3299 members are some of the most hard-working, most passionate folks you will meet, and they’re going on strike because they won’t be able to support their sons, daughters, and grandchildren unless the UC is willing to make some changes.

Currently, the contract the UC is offering to these workers actually cuts away at their already low compensation, as it threatens to freeze the workers’ wages while reducing health care benefits and replacing guaranteed pension money with a risky 401k investment. Additionally, the UC seeks to replace these workers with contracted laborers who are not entitled to a living wage or any benefits whatsoever. Clearly, these AFSCME 3299 workers deserve better and need better. Their livelihoods are at stake, so they’re giving up these three days of pay with hopes that it will earn them a more stable future.

As students, we owe a lot to these workers, not only because they maintain our campus and our living spaces, but because they have constantly shown us their compassion. They have supported students in all our battles with the UC administration, having stood with us to fight the likes of tuition hikes, low wages for student workers, and much more. We owe them our support and our presence during this monumental effort.

So how can you help? We’re asking students to join the picket lines which will be starting at Gilman Parking Structure at 11:30 a.m. and at 4:00 p.m. on each day of the strike (May 7-9, Monday to Wednesday). Furthermore, if you are a student worker hired by UC San Diego, you have the right to strike in solidarity with AFSCME 3299, and you are legally protected from facing any repercussions from your management for this decision. Here’s some information on that:

Q: Is it legal for student workers to honor the strike?

YES. The law protects student employees’ right to organize, bargain AND strike with other striking workers (see Section 3562(e) of the California Government Code). Student employees share the same legal protections as other employees under labor law. The labor board has further ruled that it is unlawful for an employer to take action against unrepresented employees who support union-represented employees (Delano Union Elementary School District (1982) PERB Decision No. 213).

Q: Can UC discipline me or fire me for honoring the strike?

It is unlawful for UC to take disciplinary action against any student worker for honoring the AFSCME strike.

Q: What can I say if my supervisor asks me if I will be working during the strike?

You do not have to answer questions from management about your participation in a strike. If you are asked in advance by your supervisor whether you will be honoring the strike, you may say: “Yes,” or “I’d rather not discuss it,” or “I haven’t decided.” Please report any coercive behavior to AFSCME union leaders at your location immediately.

Q: My supervisor told us that all student workers have to come to work when AFSCME workers go on strike. What can I do if my supervisor asks me to commit that I’ll come to work during AFSCME strike?

UC may attempt to make you think you have no option but to cross the picket line and come to work when AFSCME workers are on strike. You can tell your supervisor, “It is my legal right to participate and honor their picket line.

Q: What should I do on the day of the AFSCME strike?

Once the AFSCME strike begins, you can let your supervisor know prior to the start of your scheduled shift: “I will not be at work today because I am honoring the AFSCME strike.” If your supervisor threatens you, you can tell them “Any form of retaliation against me is illegal.”

This strike is an extremely significant event on our campus because we are fighting for racial and economic justice for a group of laborers who deserve and need much more than they are currently being offered, for the sake of themselves and their families. They’re putting a lot on the line to fight for the dignity and respect of their labor, and they don’t deserve to stand alone in this fight. Every student that participates in this strike is helping magnify the voice and the message of these workers, so know that your sacrifices are going a long way. See y’all at the picket lines!

If you have any questions about the strike, as a student or as a student worker, feel free to e-mail plolabat@ucsd.edu.

Prajay Lolabattu is a student intern for AFSCME 3299. The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates. We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.